Polish Authorities Demand British Law Enforcement Interrogate Tor Exit Node Operator About Information He Doesn't Have

from the colossal-waste-of-time-and-effort dept

As numerous posts on Techdirt attest, the authorities really don't like Tor, even though the Onion routing system was developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory, not some terrorist hacker group. The latest jurisdiction to misunderstand how Tor works is Poland, as this report on Motherboard explains:

Polish authorities have requested British law enforcement to interrogate the node operator because of a 2014 forum post supposedly insulting the ex-mayor of a small Polish town; apparently an illegal act in Poland.
A letter from the District Public Prosecutor's Office in Bialystok, Poland, to the UK Home Office points to Article 212, paragraph 2 of the Polish Penal Code, which says, in sum, that characterising someone else in such a way that might "degrade them in public opinion or expose them to the loss of confidence necessary to occupy a given position […] is subject to a fine or the penalty of limitation of liberty."
The Tor exit node used by the person who allegedly wrote the problematic post is run by Thomas White, better known as TheCthulhu on Twitter, where his bio reads:
Technology and privacy activist. Hidden service dev. Turkey-certified terrorist. Radical giver of no shits.
It will therefore come as no surprise that White is unsympathetic to the request by the District Public Prosecutor's Office in Bialystok. Even better, he has posted part of his statement in reply to that request, which is well-worth reading. White points out that the Polish law in question seems to violate Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, further enshrined as Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. He says that he accepts the ex-mayor in question may have found a statement about him to be humiliating or offending, but adds:
I have many times felt offended where his political party have made derogatory remarks concerning the LGBT community for example, or where his complaint is an attempt to trample upon the rights of others. The difference is that I seem to have the mental capacity to take the opinions of others on board and reason my views with them to make my points.
White concludes pretty much as you might hope and expect:
I can only reaffirm my position that I have no intention of assisting with the request from the Polish authorities
Of course, the great thing about Tor is that White couldn't help the Polish authorities even he wanted to, since he was just operating the exit node, and knows nothing about the origin of the Tor traffic he facilitates. The sooner governments learn this basic fact, the sooner they can stop wasting time and resources trying to extract information from people that don't have it.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: law enforcement, poland, thecthulhu, thomas white, tor, tor exit node, uk

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2016 @ 5:19pm

    I'm not going to argue the idiocy of sending this request to UK authorities or the ethics of article 212 here since pretty much everyone agrees it should be massively overhauled and moved from criminal to civil area of law.

    However, the translation of "pomawia" as "characterizes" is simply wrong — in reality it means "falsely accuses", refers to an accusation made in privacy (§ 1) or in public (§ 2, including on the Internet) and it can be invalidated via Article 213:
    § 1. There is no crime defined in Article 212 § 1, if the accusation stated in non-public manner [can be proven] true.
    § 2. Person stating a true accusation is not guilty of the crime defined in Article 212 § 1 or 2 if:
    1) the accusation refers to conduct of a person performing a public function or
    2) the accusation is stated in defence of a socially relevant issue.

    Rest of the article sets restrictions on what can be legally trialled for truth due to the privacy right of an individual but that doesn't apply to public figures like a mayor, unless the accusation is false, of course.

    The biggest problem with it is, I think, that it's a criminal law regarding libel that allows for up to imprisonment (which doesn't really happen, mind you) and demands the accused to prove his innocence, reversing the innocent until proven guilty paradigm which should be reflected in matters of criminality. This makes it a rather favoured tool of scumbags politicians aiming to create a chilling effect and stifle criticism.

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